NHL to return to Europe as Winter Classic heads to Fenway Park

The NHL ice hockey league has detailed plans to return to Europe next season with games planned in Germany, Switzerland, Finland and the Czech Republic, while Fenway Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox, will stage the 2023 Winter Classic.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed on Friday that Switzerland and Germany will stage pre-season games, with Finland and the Czech Republic to host regular-season fixtures.

Teams, dates and cities for the games have not yet been announced. The games will mark the first time the NHL has played outside of North America since November 9, 2019, when Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning vs Buffalo Sabres as part of the NHL Global Series.

The Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators had been due to play in the 2020 Global Series, with pre-season games in Mannheim, Germany and Bern, Switzerland, as well as regular-season games in the Czech capital of Prague.

These games were cancelled as the start of the 2020-21 NHL season was delayed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ice hockey calendar.

The NHL played 32 pre-season games and 28 regular-season games in Europe from 2007-11 and 2017-19. Twelve regular-season games have been played in Stockholm, with seven in Helsinki, four in Prague, two in London, and one each in Berlin and Gothenburg.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said: “Internationally for us is a no-brainer. We had established momentum in terms of having a greater and more regular presence of games in Europe. With the pandemic waning and hopefully a return to normalcy, it only makes sense to restart those efforts and to further them.”

Meanwhile, Fenway Park has been selected to host the NHL Winter Classic in 2023, with the Boston Bruins to serve as the home team. A date for the event, which is usually played on January 1, has not yet been confirmed, nor has the Bruins’ opponent.

The Winter Classic was played at Fenway Park on January 1, 2010, with the Bruins defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime. Fenway Park is the oldest stadium in MLB having opened in 1912.

“It’s been 12 years since we were at Fenway,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “A lot of money has been put into the building, it’s not quite the same ballpark. Boston is obviously a great hockey town. We’ve now done over 30 outdoor games; if you want to keep doing them you have to go back to some places.

“It won’t look and it won’t be the same, [NHL chief content officer] Steve Mayer won’t allow it, as it was last time. It’ll be a new experience in a venue that has been transformed and modernised in some ways. We think it’ll be a great event. You’ll have to speculate on who the opponent will be.”

In other news, FLA Live Arena, home of the Florida Panthers, has been announced as the host of the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend, while the Carolina Hurricanes will host an NHL Stadium Series game at Carter-Finley Stadium on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina on February 25 next year.

Image: Klim Musalimov on Unsplash